Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841–1919) was a French artist who was a leading painter in the development of the Impressionist style. As a celebrator of beauty, and especially feminine sensuality, it has been said that Renoir is the final representative of a tradition which runs directly directly from Rubens to Watteau.
[The Frick Collection] explores Renoir's portraits and subject pictures of this type from the mid-1870s to mid-1880s. Intended for public display, these vertical grand-scale canvases are among the artist's most daring and ambitious presentations of contemporary subjects and are today considered masterpieces of Impressionism.
Unlike many other Impressionists, Renoir traveled widely throughout Europe in order to see the paintings of the great Renaissance and Baroque masters. The influence of artists like Raphael, Velazquez, and Rubens is visible in his work. This combination of an Impressionistic approach to color with a more traditional attitude toward form and composition emerges in Two Girls at the Piano, where the girls' arms have a genuine sense of roundness and weight. This painting is no mere visual exercise - Renoir endows his figures with a sense of self-assurance that only emphasizes their vulnerability.
Criticized, misunderstood, Renoir little by little will leave his "dry" period. Without returning to a blow of purely Impressionist style, he will inflect the draw, give up the rigour while preserving subjects modelling . Delicacy, form, color, light and sensuality are the master words of this new period. Giving up linear style, Renoir adopts a more flexible and consistent construction, with more fluidity and effects of transparency. It is what one called the "pearly" period. This evolution of Renoir who approaches fifty is also due to the following fact: "He indeed realized, at that time, that his early paintings cracked and that the tone deteriorated. He thus supervised his mixtures, which he reduced, like Rubens, at a minimum, and used a thin and single layer "(Andre Lhote).
In the 1880s, he abandoned Impressionism for what is often called the “dry style”. He began a search for solid form and stable composition, a search, which led him back to the masters of the Renaissance. He worked more carefully and meticulously, his colors became cooler and smoother. He later returned to hot rich colors and free brushwork of his earlier days to portray nudes in sunlight, a style, which he continued to develop to the end of his life: The Bathers (1887).
In 1883, he spent the summer in Guernsey, creating fifteen paintings in little over a month. Most of these feature Moulin Huet, a bay in Saint Martin's, Guernsey. Guernsey is one of the Channel Islands in the English Channel, and it has a varied landscape that includes beaches, cliffs, bays, forests, and mountains. These paintings were the subject of a set of commemorative postage stamps issued by the Bailiwick of Guernsey in 1983.
[Renoir's] painting Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette (Dance at the Moulin Rouge) has an interesting dapple-light effect. It looks as if light is shining through the trees. The specialty at the Moulin was pancakes (galettes) hence the name of the painting. In 1990 the painting sold at auction for 78.1 million dollars, one of the most expensive ever sold.
In the early 1870s Renoir moved to the center of Paris, painting scenes of modern city life for the next decade. Among them are some of his most iconic works, such as Le Moulin de la Galette, painted with rich color, loose applications of paint, and an overwhelmingly luminous quality. He participated in the first and second Impressionist exhibitions in 1874 and 1876, which received several harsh critical reviews but achieved the goal of providing a legitimate challenge to the dominance of the Salon exhibitions. In the next decade he distanced himself from the group, painting tighter, more finished compositions, inspired by the classical art he viewed on a trip to Italy; critically, these works are considered some of his weakest, and by the 1890s Renoir reverted to the broad, loose brushstrokes, warm colors, and sensual figures he was best known for.
Pierre Renoir began to revolt against the traditional art style. They started painting outdoors, which itself was considered to be quite revolutionary. The first Impressionist paintings were created in the forest of Fontainebleau and at a nearby little lake. The four friends wanted to catch the impression of the moment and to show the effects of light. The Impressionists used quick brush strokes and bright colors. In the eyes of their critics these paintings looked unfinished and sloppily made.
Together with Claude Monet he develops the new painting style of Impressionism around 1870, he is regarded as one of its main representatives. Pierre-Auguste Renoir partakes in three group exhibitions of the impressionists, for financial reasons he then again shows works at the conventional salons.
During his life, Pierre-Auguste Renoir was the most popular of the Impressionists. For many, his brightly dappled scenes of joyful middle-class social life captured the essence of that movement in the history of Modernist art. His withdrawal from the Impressionist group indicated a transitional period for the entire group, many of whom evolved increasingly individual styles.
Noted for his radiant, intimate paintings, particularly of the female nude. Recognized by critics as one of the greatest and most independent painters of his period, Renoir is noted for the harmony of his lines, the brilliance of his color, and the intimate charm of his wide variety of subjects. Unlike other impressionists he was as much interested in painting the single human figure or family group portraits as he was in landscapes; unlike them, too, he did not subordinate composition and plasticity of form to attempts at rendering the effect of light.